Sunday, February 28, 2010

Comic Relief!

Well, this isn't the blog I thought I'd write tonight, but I had so much fun today with these silly shoes that I wanted to share the story with you.
I belong to a Bleuette yahoogroup and the ladies have sewing challenges every month. Sometimes the challenge changes as it did in February, and it became a shoe challenge. After many people made little French shoes, the challenge sponsor suggested extending the fun by making shoes from a non-traditional material. For some reason I started singing the old folk song Clementine. "Wearing boxes without out topses, sandals were for Clementine!" I wrote this to the group early in the month and we all had a good giggle over it.

Well the challenge came to close today and the sponsor was teasing me that she'd hoped I would have come through with my boxes. Not being one to disappoint, I ran into my studio and found these two little boxes that fit perfectly on Bleuette's little feet. Since Clementine's shoes were "number nine", I added this little touch to them. Sharilyn got a big kick out of it and I must admit they came out swell! "Oh my darlin', Oh my darlin', Oh my daaaarlin' Clementine!" hee-hee

A note to dear Norma: Bebe is only 2 3/4" tall. I looked up a metric conversion chart and it indicated 50.8mm.

Its been a very busy time for me as I'm working on several commissions, but I have been filling Bebe's presentation box with all the items I can detect from the photograph. She now has her tiny doll, the wire butterfly net (had to try that one three times!), a pair of gloves, and her beautiful cape. I'll share these with you, and maybe more, next time the lighting in my little hole in the wall is perfect for taking pictures.

On to March! In like a lion? Little mice do quake in their presence!
Miss E. Mouse
P.s. On March 1, I found out these silly boxes won part of the shoe challenge with a prize for "...and to the No. 9's for outstanding originality and good humor!" Oh my!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bebe Balancoire Swings!

A nice fire is crackling in the fireplace and its cold and wet outdoors. A perfect environment for perseverence. Given my intense, personal commitment to perfection, I fussed a bit with the swing, beautified it with a lovely finish and assembled it in the trunk. I sat Bebe in the swing from the front, and here she is!

Now to hinge the pieces, assemble the latches and I can begin the joy of filling the sides with all her tiny toys and dresses.

One thing can be said for Miss E. Mouse - she's determined!

Love, Miss E. Mouse

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taking Stock

I'm tired. I've been working for days it seems on this little "balancoire" presentation box. I can't tell you how many times I've had to stop and really think about what I'm doing. This is clearly one of the most ambitious projects I've ever taken on. Those who know me can tell you that I am always chosing the most difficult thing to do - but, this is even a bit much for a mouse!

The most important thing, to me, when creating a piece of art is to make it look effortless. Have you ever taken a look at a painting that feels overworked? Like the artist really struggled to paint it? Well, the same goes for any fine work of art. When presented to an audience, it should look as if the artist just whipped through it with no trouble at all. It should look finished, glorious, but understated in elegance.

The issues with this presentation box (pronounced ba-lan-swa), is that I am going strictly by a photograph when I dearly need the full three-dimensional piece in front of me. The other is that my little Bebe has a porcelain head and body while her limbs made of very light wood so she isn't weighted to sit properly on the swing. You'll see in the photo I took that the middle frame is there, the swing was, so I may build a small pedestal to anchor it so she can sit without falling backwards. You wouldn't think such issues could occur for a little doll under 3", but when working with miniatures, it is good to remember you are creating an illusion. My problem is that I want more...

I guess most people would only see two box sides, a swing in the middle, goodies in the box sides and a doll sitting on the swing. Well, trust me, there's alot more to the construction and design of this presentation box than meets the eye!

So, I'm having a soothing cup of tea in my new rocking chair (with side table!) and accessing the progress of this project. I have no doubts that it will become the masterpiece I wish it to be, but I will be working on it long and hard, for a long, hard time.

Oh! Good news! This little mouse gets her cast off next week!

Miss E. Mouse

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Creative Process

Seldom does an artist display a work in progress. There are several reasons why. One is that other artists or would be artists can see the construction and will try to copy it, duplicate it. The other reason is that the piece often looks unfinished and is reviewed with distaste. I can recall one bleak winter, and I mean bleak when I was living in Ontario, Canada. Back then I was painting portraits and landscapes in oil. During this one dismal winter I was working on a portrait of this lady's Sheltie. The dog was as sweet as can be and I was enjoying the process. The painting was about a third done and I was overjoyed with the general facial features I had painted, mainly the expressive eyes and the snout. I hadn't thought much about it, and proudly showed my work to Jannie. She gave the canvas a sour look and said, without much ado, "This must be the ugly stage of the painting." Well, my mouth dropped open and as I babbled something out, I decided then and there never to show a work in progress again. But, now I'm doing something different, and I did say that this blog was on The Creative Process. So it is in this vein that I introduce Bebe Balancoire.

I just finished dressing her yesterday, a process that took three days to complete. She is wearing a silk gown embellished with embroidery, lace and pretty silk ribbons. Her dress is removable as I indicated earlier, and is closed with a thread loop and bead. Miniaturizing the dress seen in the original doll from 1893 was something else! But, all in all, I am pleased with the outcome.

I've added a photo for you to see her construction. The original doll was described as porcelain with a jointed wood body, painted red stockings and gold shoes. If you look closely at the antique you will see how her arms fold around the chains of her swing and how her legs bend at the knee to sit proper on the swing. So I took the original porcelain arms and legs from the 2 3/4" doll and hand-carved the limbs. In the photo you can see how she is pegged - this was before I trimmed the 1/16" dowels. Often times it amazes me how I can acheive these works, but then I've been chipping away at tiny Hitties and working with miniature dolls for awhile.

I hope you enjoy the photos as I continue the process of miniaturizing her incredible presentation box and all the accessories inside. And, yes, she will even have her own teeny tiny doll - porcelain and jointed!

Miss E. Mouse

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peg Wooden Bleuette With Cottage Carry-all

It is evening and I've just sat down for a bit of dessert. Would it surprise you if I told you I loved cheesecake? hee-hee Especially with cherries on top. Everything is better with a cherry on top!

I've been working all day on dressing the little Bebe Balancoire. This is seriously one of the most intricate little outfits I've ever dressed a doll in that was under 3"! First of all I'm using the most beautiful silk imaginable. It was a piece of remnant that someone gave me from a dress she made my Bru. Its the color of milky coffee and so delicate and thin it has very few slubs in it. Silk dupioni is know for its slubs, which are thickened threads in the texture. In order to achieve the very look of the original gown from 1893, I've had to run red embroidery thread through the dress in horizontal rows to give the illusion of silk ribbon. Even the bloomers are made from the silk. The most incredible thing is that I intend for every element of her wardrobe, worn and in the presentation box to be removable and dressable. No easy task with silk that frays.

And, throughout the days I continue to work with the charming peg-wooden paperdolls. There are endless possibilities and they are so precious to make. I just finished this little Bleuette peg wooden - illustrations by the phenomenal Karen Prince. She's only 2" high. I found this darling cottage in a children's book and had to adapt it for the carrying case. The result is rather "Alice", but who does not love Alice? I may just have to do a little peg-wooden paper doll of Alice and the Rabbit. I do have antique reproductions of them. We'll see. Much work is on my table and I still have yet to begin the Hitty Marionette Theatre.

What happens when I'm in the middle of several projects is that my, now two, work tables are scattered with pins and paint, fabrics and rulers, pieces of wood and bags of bits. The result is utter chaos and only I know where everything is and why. The only two things I continually lose is my pencil and my gummy Mars eraser. Did I mention I'm still slaving over the second miniature Chinese Checkers set? Only 3" by 3", its a hand painted miniature of a King Foo Checkee board, circa 1930.

This evening while I was looking at some recently posted photos on a group I belong to, I noticed someone cut out copier-reduced-in-size Daisy paper dolls from the Lettie Lane pages and posed them with her Bleuette. The say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

If you've studied art history to any degree, you will most likey recall that nothing is new. Artists have been copying and revising past works since time began. There is no greater artist than nature itself for it is always original, and always new. I often recall the work of Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun with her Chapeau de Paille. She painted a self-portrait in a hat with a plume after a painting of Rueben's sister in law. She admired and loved Ruebens' work so much, that she made it her own.

If you love paper dolls and you love Bleuette, please visit my website as this charming little peg wooden is for sale.

Miss E. Mouse

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Let Me Make Your Dreams Come True!

Happy Valentine's Day! I just couldn't resist sharing a photo of my two little Valentines, Dover and Orion, who are now five-months-old. I had to snap this picture because Orion only stays clean for a short time and he had a bath last night. Poor little guy is an English Cream Golden Retriever and he can't stay white no matter what the weather. He loves to roll in the dirt! Dover is a Yellow Lab and he sheds dirt like most labs. They are my sweethearts.

But, here I am having a cup of tea with my drawing board. I decided to hop up on my sideboard and rest a bit and take in what I wanted to get done today. Lots. I have several projects on my table, all of which I'm very excited about. One might think that all the intricate little detailed work I do might be stressful and tiring, but it soothes and relaxes me like a meditation. The little Bebe Balancoire is being painted and put together today now that her wood-jointed arms and legs have been carved. I had to empty my dust pan several times in the process!

And, besides wishing you a chocolately day, I wanted to include that yes, I do take commissions. I welcome them and enjoy working with a customer to make them something very unique and special. I do like making dreams come true. May all your dreams come true!

Miss E. Mouse

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

Spring is in the air! My whiskers are twitching as I take in the scent of narcissus and my eyes twinkle at the sight of the bright yellow daffodils popping their little sun bonnets on. Here in California, spring always comes early, although some winters we get another wave of cold and all the buds on our trees freeze. And, yet, there is nothing compared to seeing the bright sun and the early garden of spring.

Having just finished three sets of the Lettie Lane peg wooden paper dolls, I'm very pleased with their outcome and could sit around here playing with them all day. But, they are going to new homes and I must get my little tail going on some new projects. As you can see, my paw is still in a cast, but I scurry around more easily these days.

My next project in the works, is a miniature of a precious Etrenne I've been wanting to do for some time now. It is the Bebe Balancoire, or doll swing in a lovely presentation box. The original was described as "Bebe Balancoire" in the 1893 Etrennes catalog of Printemps department store. The Bebe Balancoire features a beautifully paper covered trunk with doors that fold down back and front displaying a standing swing set upon which the doll sits. In the doors are richly displayed toys, dresses and accessories for the doll. My goodness! What child would not swoon for such a toy?

Besides playing dolls, as a child I loved to swing. I would swing for hours and hours in our backyard on a set my father crudely constructed, but to me, it was like flying among the bird song and budding trees.

The little Bebe was described with a porcelain head, and wood jointed arms and legs that were painted. This is exactly what I'm recreating in a lovely reproduction mignonette 2 3/4" tall. The trunk, being covered and constructed currently, is 3 1/2" tall and 2 1/2" wide. I'm so delighted to have started this project with its fine challenge in designing the presentation trunk with the swing in the middle. A time to dream...

How would you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think its the pleasantest thing,
every a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Miss E. Mouse

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Week four of being in a cast and it hasn't really slowed me down at all. I tire easily from putting most of my weight on one paw while standing, but I take lots of breaks and return to the garage to saw some more.

I've been immersed in Lettie Lane these days. In the early years of the 20th century, Lettie Lane was the paper doll mainstay of The Ladies' Home Journal and the most popular doll in America. The Lettie Lane Paper Family first appeared in October 1908. Over the next decade, Lettie Lane became so popular, her manners and fashions mirrored and influenced American domestic lifestyles and society. I find her costuming endearing and beautiful, and with my love of creating miniature peg wooden paper dolls, I launched into three projects to showcase the charm of Lettie Lane.

The first project was A French Girl and Her Punch and Judy Show. I've long wanted to do something with a Punch and Judy theatre and this seamed a fun jump off point. The best thing about this set was finding a very rare Lettie Lane paper doll house image. I downloaded it, fussed with it on the computer for hours (it seems) and from the image created a real doll house to house the tiny characters and all the doll's dresses and hats. The French Girl is a little over two inches and the tiniest character, the baby from the Punch and Judy Show, is a scant 1 1/8". To make the little house even more enchanting, I added a removable, sliding divider in channels to separate the doll and her wardrobe from Punch and his characters and theatre. I think the effect was charming. So very much a true Etrenne in details and quality.

I had something fun happen the other day! I went to my email box and found a letter from my dearest friend and mentor. She'd been to a meeting of the Young at Heart doll club where she lives, a club affiliated with the UFDC (United Federation of Doll Clubs). The theme that night was original dolls. The members would bring a representation of original dolls to share with the group. Guess what showed up? Not one, but TWO of my earlier Bitty Becassines!! My work endures! My friend said she was over the moon with joy seeing my work again, and seeing it so proudly displayed. I was tickled to pieces to hear this story and so encouraged and honored by it.

So now I continue to finish the last two Lettie Lane peg wooden paper dolls sets. One is of Daisy, Lettie's doll, and one is of Lettie herself. Just to give you an idea of the pegging part, 1/16th inch dowels are used to peg the dresses and a tiny 1/16th inch hole is drilled in the doll. For the hats, I use straight pins nipped off into a tiny pieces! When all three are finished, I'll post photos on my website

Now for the BIG news. I just ordered a Daisyette, an antique reproduction of Daisy, only Bleuette size, from the fabulous Suzanne McBrayer. I also ordered a set of Daisyette patterns from the incredible Robin Barrows. I'm going to sew. Yes, I am. It may take a lifetime to make little Daisy's wardrobe complete with hats from her paper doll illustrations, but that is exactly what I'm going to do! Not for sale, but humbly for me.

When considering the creative process, it is not difficult to see why I was inspired to pick up a needle and thread. I spent hours sawing Daisy's little dresses and hats out of a piece of 1/16" basswood under a magnifying glass. I studied in entirety every little nuance of each dress from ribbon and sashes, to pleats in the skirts and flowers on the hats. It had to be done! I had to really bring this little doll to life. You may not see something real soon as my doll is being fired in a kiln and expertly painted presently, but I promise to share my first outfit with you whether it comes out well or not! Stay tuned!